The only good news leftover from Saturday’s debacle in Nashville is that the memories of that game can be washed away on Sunday evening when the Chicago Blackhawks return to the United Center to host the Calgary Flames.
Like everyone else in the NHL, the Flames just returned from a lengthy stint away from the ice as COVID issues plagued the team. Calgary played on Dec. 11 — a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins — and then didn’t play for 19 days, a streak that ended with Thursday’s 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken. That time away from the ice arrived as the Flames were in the midst of a four-game losing streak, which promptly ended with that recent win. That’s been the story of the Flames’ entire season: alternating between hot and cold streaks. Calgary lost its first two games of the season, won six in a row, lost six of eight, then won eight of 10 before the aforementioned four-game skid.
That 8-1-1 stretch included a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks in Calgary on Nov. 23. A pair of late empty-net goals by the Flames made the score appear more lopsided than it was, as Matthew Tkachuk’s goal with 5:35 remaining in the third broke a 2-2 deadlock. But that was a game that saw the Flames own the majority of the possession, as the Natural Stat Trick data indicates. Calgary remains one of the top possession teams in the league, though, so preventing the Flames from consistently setting up shop in the Chicago end of the ice will be key for the Blackhawks.
As for those Blackhawks, Marc-Andre Fleury has been activated from COVID protocol but, considering he hasn’t practiced since Monday, Fleury won’t be the starting goalie against Calgary:
Derek King says Arvid Soderblom will start in net tonight and Marc-Andre Fleury will back him up.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) January 2, 2022
Soderblom made his NHL debut yesterday while relieving Collin Delia in net and will now make his first NHL start. That move coincided with an assignment to Rockford for Delia, who’ll probably be staying there for the rest of the season. While Soderblom didn’t have the best outing against Nashville on Sunday, he certainly could’ve used more help from his teammates — and the same goes for Delia. A significantly better performance from Chicago’s skaters is essential on Sunday.
Elsewhere in the lineup, MacKenzie Entwistle was sent to the taxi squad and Josiah Slavin was called up, so it looks like Slavin should be back on the fourth line to face the Flames.
No matter what the rest of the lineup looks like, it needs to perform better than it did on Saturday against Nashville. Better results from Chicago’s special teams certainly wouldn’t hurt, as the Blackhawks power play had some positive moments but ultimately went 0-for-4 while the penalty kill allowed a pair of goals against — again.
Just do something positive that makes us all forget about Saturday’s disaster, eh?
Let’s go Hawks
Blackhawks — Statistic — Flames
46.93% (27th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 54.65% (3rd)
45.71% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.39% (6th)
2.26 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.14 (12th)
3.32 (23rd) — Goals against per game — 2.28 (2nd)
49.0% (20th) — Faceoffs — 50.4% (14th)
18.0% (20th) — Power play — 23.6% (10th)
75.3% (28th) — Penalty kill — 84.9% (4th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Borgstrom — Kane
Hagel — Toews — Strome
Kubalik — Dach — Kurashev
Carpenter — Slavin — Khaira
de Haan — Jones
Stillman — Murphy
McCabe — Gustafsson
Gaudreau — Lindholm — Tkachuk
Lucic — Backlund — Coleman
Mangianpane — Dube — Pitlick
Richardson — Monahan — Lewis
Hanifin — Andersoon
Kylington — Tanev
Zadorov — Gudbranson
How to watch
When: 6 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago